The Town Reminder

South Hadley's number one source for local community news.

Category: Fire

Five escape injury in Thursday boat fire

by Town Reminder

Incident appears accidental
By Kristin Will


SOUTH HADLEY – An early morning boat fire near Titans Pier forced five young occupants to jump ship into the Connecticut River Thursday.
South Hadley Police Lt. Steven Parentela happened to be fishing on the river at that time. “I was down river near Bachelor’s Brook when I looked up river and saw something reflecting off of a boat,” he said. “And then all of a sudden, the fog looked like smoke. I put down my fishing reel, headed up river, saw the fire and two heads bobbing in the water,” said Parentela.  He raced to the individuals and pulled them from the water into his own boat, bringing them to shore. Three other individuals, he said, were swimming ashore close to the shore.
The boat sat in the middle of the river, “burning worse and worse,” said Parentela. “Things were exploding. There was nothing we could do, it was burning really bad.”
At the same time Parentela was fishing, Carl Bey of Fire District No. 2 was doing the same. Fire District No. 2 Chief David Keefe said Bey also raced to the area and contacted Fire District No. 2 Assistant Chief Todd Calkins, who responded to the scene in his personal boat as well.  Calkins then directed the rescue operation from the river. Fire District No. 1 also responded with their department’s rescue boat.
The boat’s occupants, in their early to mid twenties, escaped injury. One man had the hair on his legs burned off, said Keefe, and a burn equivalent to a sunburn. The man refused medical treatment.
In speaking to the male owner of the boat, Keefe said the owner turned on the ignition and heard a popping noise. He tried again and then opened the engine compartment where he discovered flames. “He got very concerned there was the potential for an explosion, so he told everyone to jump overboard and swim ashore,” said Keefe. “It was definitely a good move on his part; he was a smart young man. Basically he just said, ‘forget my boat, everybody get out of here,’ which they did.”
The occupants were wearing personal floatation devices or had immediate access to some.
The Massachusetts Environmental Police arrived on scene to investigate the incident with the South Hadley police and fire departments. Keefe believes the incident is an accident.
The burned boat, which drifted down the river to the Holyoke side just south of the power plant where it got hung up on rocks, will be pulled to shore by Brunelle’s Marina, under contract with the Environmental Police, where it will be looked over and investigated.

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Feeding Hills man killed in North Main Street crash

by Town Reminder

The underbelly of a silver Toyota Camry is facing outward from a garage of 197 North Main Street into which it crashed Wednesday evening after striking a tree.

Feeding Hills man killed in North Main Street crash
Cause remains under investigation
By Kristin Will
Staff Writer

SOUTH HADLEY – A car crash Wednesday evening in which a vehicle struck a tree and plunged into the garage of 197 North Main Street has resulted in a fatality.
Greg A. Kwasny, 41, of Feeding Hills, was driving a silver 2007 Toyota Camry at 6:45 p.m. southbound on North Main Street at a high rate of speed, according to South Hadley Police Detective Mark Dominick, when he struck a large tree located on 203 North Main Street.
The car apparently became airborne after striking the tree, evidenced by a lack of tire marks in the area, and rolled continuously until it forcefully wedged itself into the left side of the garage of 197 North Main Street, sending large and small vehicle parts hundreds of feet into neighboring yards.
The homeowners of the residence were about to sit down for dinner in the kitchen at the time of the crash but decided to eat in a different room that evening, they said. “We heard a loud bang,” said homeowner Mike Fern. “The whole house shook. There was a flash and a loud bang.” He, his wife and their two dogs were uninjured.
Fire District No. 1 responded with fire engines No. 1 and 3 and their ambulance. Fire District No. 2 responded with their rescue truck, ambulance and fire engine. The Granby Fire Department was called as well for mutual aid.
Fire District No. 1 Chief Robert Authier said fire fighters from District No. 2 shored up one side of the garage with wood and metal beams while fire fighters from District No. 1 used the Jaws of Life to extricate the operator, who was alive at that time, from the twisted vehicle inside the garage. The man was stabilized and transported to Baystate Medical Center where he later succumbed to his injuries.
The force of the severe impact to the residence detached the garage from the front of the home. It sent the vehicle’s battery flying into the home’s attic. The vehicle’s engine came to rest in the home’s backyard. Its transmission landed in a neighbor’s backyard. A tire came to rest in front of the tree the vehicle struck and a door frame was found completely across the street.
Neighbors on scene said the impact sounded like an explosion or roll of thunder. One woman who did not want to identify herself said she could hear the incident from her Highland Avenue residence. One man said he saw the car hit the tree and explode. Others said they did not hear screeching brakes or anything to indicate the operator attempted to slow the vehicle down.
The Toyota was wedged deeply into the garage on top of the homeowners’ second vehicle. Interstate Towing responded to the scene to assist in extricating the Toyota from the garage. Authier said the garage roof would likely be cut and removed in order to pull out the vehicle.
The Massachusetts State Police Accident Reconstruction Team responded to the scene to determine exactly what occurred. The cause of the deadly crash is unknown at this time.

Fatal North Main Street car crash under investigation

by Town Reminder

The underbelly of a silver Toyota Camry is facing outward from a garage of 197 North Main Street into which it crashed Wednesday evening after striking a tree.

Fatal North Main Street car crash under investigation
By Kristin Will
Staff Writer

SOUTH HADLEY – A car crash Wednesday evening in which a vehicle struck a tree and tumbled into the garage of 197 North Main Street has resulted in a fatality.
A male individual, rumored to be from Agawam but unconfirmed by police at this time, was driving a silver Toyota Camry at 6:45 p.m. southbound on North Main Street at a high rate of speed, according to South Hadley Police Detective Mark Dominick, when he struck a large tree located on 203 North Main Street.
The car apparently became airborne and rolled continuously until it forcefully wedged itself into the left side of the garage of 197 North Main Street, sending vehicle parts into neighboring yards.
The homeowners were about to sit down for dinner in the kitchen at the time of the crash but decided to eat in a different room that evening, they said. “We heard a loud bang,” said homeowner Mike Fern. “The whole house shook. There was a flash and a loud bang.”
Fire District No. 1 responded with fire engines No. 1 and 3 and their ambulance. Fire District No. 2 responded with their rescue truck, ambulance and fire engine. The Granby Fire Department was called as well for mutual aid.
Fire District No. 1 Chief Robert Authier said fire fighters from District No. 2 shored up one side of the garage while fire fighters from District No. 1 used the Jaws of Life to extricate the operator, who was alive at that time, from the twisted vehicle and garage. The man was stabilized and transported to Baystate Medical Center where he later succumbed to his injuries.
The force of the severe impact to the residence detached the garage from the front of the home and sent the vehicle’s battery flying into the home’s attic. The vehicle’s engine came to rest in the home’s backyard.
Neighbors on scene said the impact sounded like a thunderstorm. One woman said she could hear the incident from her Highland Avenue residence. Debris was strewn about the road and neighboring lawns for hundreds of feet.
The car is wedged deeply into the garage on top of the homeowners’ second vehicle. Interstate Towing responded to the scene to assist in extricating the Toyota from the garage. Authier said the garage roof will be cut and removed in order to wedge the car out.
The Massachusetts State Police Accident Reconstruction Team is on site reconstructing the accident.
The cause of the crash is unknown at this time.

‘They’re literally playing with fire’

by Town Reminder

    Firefighters from Fire District No. 2 saturate burned brush with water after extinguishing a brush fire which began at 192 Pearl Street Wednesday afternoon.

Fire chief warns against fire pits, open burning on red flag days
By Kristin Will

SOUTH HADLEY – In the past two weeks, both fire districts have responded to three brush fires in the area.
Most recently, a brush fire broke out Wednesday afternoon at 192 Pearl Street from what District No. 2 Fire Chief David Keefe suspects was a flyaway ember.
His department responded at 12:48 p.m. to the home where a backyard abutting a tree-filled ravine was burning. “The family there evidently had a small campfire in a fire pit next to the home encircled by bricks” the night before said Keefe. “The fire burned out but all of the coals and hot embers were left in the fire pit.” He suspects wind in the overnight hours which carried into the afternoon swept the embers into the air to the wooded area immediately adjacent to the home.
A command vehicle, a fire engine, a District No. 2 brush truck and a Department of Conservation brush truck responded to the scene. The brush trucks were filled to their 250-gallon capacity and driven down the home’s long driveway in order to extinguish the flames. Four times the District No. 2 truck went back and forth between the hydrant in the street and the affected area to refill its supply.
One eighth of an acre of land, trees and brush were burned. To combat the flames, firefighters took high-powered leaf blowers and walked around the perimeter of the brush fire, blowing leaves and debris into the fire in a big circle. Simultaneously, firefighters used shovels and rakes to dig a trench down to bare dirt around the fire to create a barrier. All the while, firefighters sprayed water on the flames.
By 1:30 p.m., the flames were extinguished and firefighters remained on scene to saturate the burned area with water and monitor the site.
“Firefighters here are pretty experienced with brush fires because so much of the north part of the Mount Holyoke Range is affected by brush fires,” said Keefe.
On Saturday, April 14, a brush fire broke out on the South Hadley side of the Mount Holyoke Range on the M&M Trail west of Mt. Hitchcock at 4:25 p.m.
Both South Hadley Fire Districts No. 1 and 2 responded with assistance from the Hadley Fire Department. “It was technically in South Hadley but being the neighbors they are, they treated it as if it were their own fire,” said Keefe of Hadley’s assistance. Also aiding in the fight were fire departments from Granby, Chesterfield and Windsor.
Firefighters entered the wooded area via Chmura Road in Hadley. Despite it being a “tough road,” it proved to be the most accessible access point. A total of 40 firefighters ascended the mountain and battled the blaze up top. “It’s very difficult to traverse,” said Keefe. “You get to a point where it just drops right off.”
At one point it was reported smoke could be seen to the west on the range but it was eventually determined there was not a second fire.
Brush trucks, all terrain vehicles, a loader and a large tanker truck from Hadley were utilized at the site. Because there were no fire hydrants easily accessible, water had to be transported in. Keefe called for a helicopter but cancelled their service as it soon grew dark and “we weren’t going to achieve anything,” he said. An ambulance remained on scene to assist firefighters, as the heat was intense and terrain tough. A rehab truck from the Department of Fire Services arrived on scene to fuel the firefighters.
Firefighters dug trenches around the burning area, raked and shoveled the dirt and used chainsaws to cut off burned portions of trees, tossing them into the circled fire. They traversed the rocky area, continuing to spray water to quell the flames. Eventually, firefighters returned to the station at 8 p.m.
In total, two acres of land burned on the mountain. While there is no definite cause of the fire, Keefe speculated a campfire had been left burning, was not properly extinguished or a cigarette butt was improperly discarded.
On April 5, Fire District No. 1 responded via mutual aid to a brush fire in the vicinity of Britton and Lavelle streets in Chicopee. South Hadley crews were stationed on New Ludlow Road protecting homes from the brush fire flames. In less than 10 minutes, the fire was knocked down and crews remained on scene to watch for hot spots.
With conditions as dry they are this season, Keefe emphasizes the importance of watching the weather for red flag warnings, which when raised, prohibit any type of burning. And on those days, Keefe said, “Just don’t have a fire,” referring to not only open burning of brush (which requires permits and is actually prohibited on red flag days), but even small fires in fire pits in the evening hours. “They’re literally playing with fire,” said Keefe of those who take the risk of having a small fire on such days. “You need to listen to us when we say, ‘No fires now.’ We really mean it,” he said. “The surface is so dry and it’s getting dryer every day. If the weather doesn’t change, we’re going to see more brush fires.”

    Firefighters rake out and spray water on coals from a previous night’s campfire in a brick fire pit from which Fire Chief David Keefe believes embers floated through the backyard igniting a wooded area nearby.

Open burning bears caution

by Town Reminder

Fire chiefs remind of guidelines

By Kristin Will
Staff Writer

SOUTH HADLEY – With unusually warm temperatures luring residents outdoors early, it’s important to heed advice offered by local fire chiefs in regard to open burning in backyards when getting a leg-up on spring cleaning.
First and foremost, all residents must obtain permits, at a cost of $10, from their respective fire district department in order to begin burning. The permits are good for the season. Previously, town hall issued such permits, but as of 2011 that task has been taken over by the fire departments. “When you come in, we give people a little lecture about safety, when to start, how to be careful,” said Fire District No. 2 Chief David Keefe. “And we get an opportunity to see them face to face.”
Open burning is allowed from January to May 1. Daily, a resident has between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to conduct a burn.
But before a resident can begin to burn, he or she must notify and check with their fire department. The fire departments will verify with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection that the weather and air conditions are safe for burning. If a red flag is raised by the department, burning cannot happen anywhere. If the flag is orange, yellow, green or blue, local fire departments will use their discretion when allowing open burning. Additionally, if wind speeds increase or weather conditions worsen, fire departments can put out any fires burning at that time.
Restrictions are placed on the size and contents of a burn pile. Small piles, which do not produce much heat, are requested, so as to better control the fire. They’re also easier to extinguish.
Embers from larger piles can be quickly swept into the air and carried by air currents to other locations. Keefe said those embers could certainly ignite any dry shrubs or brush, such as the Mount Holyoke Range. Dually, the embers could spark a fire in a neighboring yard.
Twigs, sticks and yard waste are the only items allowed in a burn pile. Much to the surprise of many, leaves are not allowed in the piles, because of the high volume of smoke they create. Also not allowed are stumps, large tree limbs, old bills or paper, construction material, old furniture or tree logs. Cumbersome tree pieces should be properly disposed of at the dump. If found to be burning such materials, a resident can be fined up to $500 by the Forest Warden’s office, said Fire District No. 1 Chief Robert Authier.
He and Keefe advised residents to keep the burn pile 75 feet away from structures or as far away as possible.
Each emphasized to never leave a fire unattended. Residents must stay with the burn pile at all times.
If the wind picks up, extinguish the fire.
They suggested residents keep a garden hose with a spray tip on and near the burning site. If a hose isn’t available, keep a large bucket of water at the ready. When extinguishing the fire, spread the debris apart to make sure the flame is completely out.
“Use common sense,” said Authier.
Remember to be aware of clothing and refrain from consuming alcohol while burning.
And as always, if a fire gets out of hand, too big for one’s liking or a resident feels nervous about their fire, call the fire department.
“If you don’t follow these rules, there’s a good change your little brush fire in your backyard is going to get out of hand,” said Keefe.
He said residents who have been given the OK to burn brush should not be surprised if a member of the fire department shows up multiple times a day to monitor their fire. “We have the responsibility to police it,” he said.
Should a resident conduct an open burning session without first having obtained a permit, he or she will be subsequently fined. So too could a resident not following open burning rules. Their permit can also be revoked for the season.
For the most part, Keefe said South Hadley residents are very aware of the regulations and are good about following them. “People are very sensitive to what’s going on,” he said.
This season, just one resident in District No. 1 has had to call the fire department when a backyard brush fire had gotten out of hand. The department promptly responded and assisted the resident. In District No. 2, there have been a small number of non-permitted burns or piles that were too big. To date, there have not been any large brush fires in either of the districts.

Open burning in brief

What to burn:
– Small sticks
– Twigs
– Yard waste

What NOT to burn:
– Leaves
– Old bills, paper
– Tree stumps, logs
– Old furniture
– Construction materials

When to burn:
– First obtain a permit from fire district for $10
– Verify with the department if the day’s conditions are OK
– Burn between 10 a.m and 4 p.m.

Where to burn:
– 75 feet away from structures or as far away as able

Open burning tips:
– Stay with fire at all times
– Keep a garden hose with spray nozzle on nearby
– Be mindful of clothing
– Keep burn pile small
– Spread pile apart when dousing with water

In an emergency/for questions:
– Call 9-1-1
– Call Fire District No. 1: (413) 532-5343
– Call Fire District No. 2: (413) 534-5803

Backfiring motorcycle sets Parkview Drive home ablaze

by Town Reminder


By Kristin Will
Staff Writer, kwill@turley.com

Editor’s note: This is an update to a story originally posted at 3 p.m.

SOUTH HADLEY – A backfiring motorcycle was the cause of a garage fire which eventually consumed the majority of a one-story wooden home at 10 Parkview Drive Wednesday afternoon.
After hearing an explosion and seeing a truck on fire, a neighbor called the fire department at 1:02 p.m. By the time firefighters had arrived on scene minutes later after receiving the delayed alarm, the structure was fully involved.
David Kettles was inside the garage, working on his Honda 700 motorcycle, when he said it backfired and fell on him. Uninjured, he was able to get out from under the bike. With his truck parked in front of the garage, Kettles said he was unable to push the motorcycle out of the garage. “I got an extinguisher from the kitchen and I emptied the extinguisher in two seconds,” he said. “And that was the end of that.”
The home is owned by Frederick Czupkiewicz, who was inside the residence at the time of the fire. Kettles, the boyfriend of Czupkiewicz’s daughter, said Czupkiewicz went downstairs to open a door for the family’s three cats to escape. One cat was found alive inside the home and given oxygen. It was later transported to a veterinarian. Both Kettles and Czupkiewicz were able to exit safely, as well.
“It was fully involved,” said Fire District No. 1 Chief Robert Authier. “Fire was coming out of the eaves near the chimney.” When he arrived on scene, the fire had already taken a hold of the attic space. Strong winds worked against firefighters’ efforts, pushing the fire back into the attic.
Nearly an hour later, the fire was knocked down and firefighters continued to check for hot spots. Both Fire District No. 1 and No. 2 responded to the fire. District No. 2 sent fire engines 2 and 4, in addition to an ambulance, as part of protocol. Fire District No. 1 sent engine 3 and a ladder truck. SHELD was called to the scene to turn off power lines attached to the home that were above the flames.
Fire hoses were stretched through neighboring yards to the back yard of 10 Parkview Drive to attack from all angles. The flames were so substantial, the white siding on the home to the left of 10 Parkview Drive had melted.
Holyoke Fire Department covered the Fire District No. 1 station and Hadley Fire Department manned the Fire District No. 2 station while the South Hadley firefighters fought the flames.
By 2:30, one fire engine remained on scene to watch for any hot spots.
Authier deemed the home a total loss. According to the Board of Assessors, the home is valued at 190,400.

Truck rollover finds milk fortifying field

by Town Reminder

Truck rollover finds milk fortifying field
Alvord Street shut down Monday, Tuesday for cleanup

By Kristin Will
Staff Writer, kwill@turley.com

SOUTH HADLEY – Although it didn’t have them crying, a tractor trailer truck which rolled over Monday morning spilling milk in the roadway left officials with quite the mess to clean.
An 18-wheel Harris Milk tractor trailer truck flipped on its side on Alvord Street just past Brunelle’s Marina before McCray’s Farm after the driver, traveling south bound, failed to negotiate the turn. The Belchertown company’s truck skidded to the side of the road at 10:56 a.m. on that rainy Monday morning. It landed on its right side, crushing a fence surrounding a field and spilling its contents.
South Hadley Police Officer Jeff Goulet, Sgt. Bob Whelihan and Detective McClair Mailhott responded to the accident. Both South Hadley fire districts 1 and 2 were on scene to assist.
Although it was not completely full of dairy, some milk did leak out of the tractor trailer truck, in addition to a large amount of engine oil, said South Hadley Police Lt. Steven Parentela. Fortunately, the fuel tanks did not rupture, which was a concern, said South Hadley Fire District 1 Chief Robert Authier.
“When we arrived, we had engine fluid leaking down toward the river, not helped by the rain,” he said.
Crews were able to contain the spilled milk and prevent it from flowing into the Connecticut River, which would have caused a problem for the marine life in the river. Unfortunately, some the same could not be said for the engine oil, especially “with the rain diluting it,” said Authier.
Emergency crews received help from Luke Brunelle, of Brunelle’s Marina, in setting up a hard buoy to protect the river water from any additional runoff.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) was called to the scene to inspect. The Massachusetts State Police Truck Team arrived on scene to investigate the accident. The South Hadley Conservation Commission was notified, as was the State Health Department, which also responded to the scene. The Granby Fire Department assisted the South Hadley departments with absorbent materials. Tools such as absorbent paper and “pigs” – absorbent devices used to contain liquid in one place – were laid down, as well as sand from the South Hadley Department of Public Works. Private companies were hired to remove and dispose of the absorbent instruments.
Alvord Street remained closed for the rest of Monday and again Tuesday while the cleanup effort continued.
The driver of the Harris Milk tractor trailer truck, a 42-year-old Belchertown man, was cited for speeding. He was transported to Holyoke Medical Center for minor, non life-threatening injuries.